Lattice launches ORAN stack, new FPGA with security in mind

Lattice Semiconductor has announced its latest application-specific FPGA solution stack, with this launch targeting the emerging Open Radio Access Network (ORAN) opportunity in the mobile sector.

The Lattice ORAN solution stack, which is the company's fifth stack in a series aimed at different markets, enables robust control data security, flexible fronthaul synchronization, and low-power hardware acceleration for secure, adaptable ORAN deployments.

The move comes as the market for ORAN, which disaggregates the RAN portion of the mobile network that traditionally has been subject to inflexible single-vendor approaches that locked service providers into one vendor, is expected to surge over the next six years. Kenneth Researchis predicting an 85% compound annual growth rate during that period, putting the expected market value at $22 billion by 2028.

With increasing disaggregation, new suppliers emerging in the ecosystem and new components from different vendors becoming part of every ORAN, there will be increasing concerns about secret, and any one point or component in the RAN being weak enough security-wise to allow a successful attack. Lattice’s ORAN stack introduces Zero Trust security, and authentication with real-time encryption and decryption functions, as well as RISC-V software included to configure security functions.

“A totally disaggregated RAN will be the normal,” said Prasad Vindla, product marketing lead for comms at Lattice. “The old system was to have a single, tightly-controlled box. Disaggregation moves us to webscale-type architectures with many benefits, but there are some crucial flaws, such as concerns that bad actors will try to exploit the weakest point [in the RAN. So you need to have security not just at the user level, but you need to start increasing security at the platform to ensure that any connection between any two components on a board is protected.”

ORAN also moves the mobile industry away from circuit-based timing and synchronization, which was very reliable, but again, largely dependent on single-vendor platforms. In a future release, the Lattice ORAN stack will support tight synchronization for flexible fronthaul using the IEEE 1588 protocol targeted to maintain strict timing and synchronization

requirements between the radio unit and the distribution unit in the RAN.

The new stack also continues Lattice’s tradition of focusing on low-power, supporting up to 70% lower power and up to 100 times more resistant to soft errors in the smallest form factor than competing FPGAs of a similar class, Vindla said.

Mach XO5

In addition to the ORAN announcement, Lattice also this week launched its MachXO5-NX family of FPGAs, aimed at enhancing secure system monitoring and control in server computing, communications, industrial, and automotive markets.

Speaking on Lattice’s increasing focus on security with all of its products, Peiju Chiang, product marketing manager at Lattice, said, “I think previously people were just happy that things worked, but today, you're just seeing all the hacks that are going down. In software it has been prevalent, but now people are actually hacking on the firmware level, and at the hardware level, so it becomes even more important that a hardware component provide the type of security that can defend these types of attacks.”

The Lattice MachXO5-NX FPGAs feature a 25k logic cell capacity FPGA fabric with 1.9 Mb

of embedded memory reducing the design footprint by minimizing the need for external memory. The devices also offer up to 9.2 Mb of dedicated user flash memory to store mission-critical data and parameters. The devices also feature up to 300 general purpose I/O (80% supporting 3.3 V signaling) that support early I/O configuration and provides added features such as 1.25 Gbps SGMII, default pull-down, hot socketing, and programmable slew rate for simplified board design, Lattice said. This specifically addresses the lack of signaling support in some CPUs and system-on-a-chip that makes it difficult for devices to communicate.